In brief | Nation & world | 012914


Mexican government takes risky gamble with plan to legalize anti-cartel vigilante movement

MEXICO CITY — After months of tacit cooperation with rural vigilantes trying to drive out a cult-like drug cartel, the Mexican government is seeking to permanently solve one of its toughest security problems with a plan to legalize the growing movement and bring it under the army’s control.

But the risks are high.

To succeed, the government must enforce military discipline and instill respect for human rights and due process among more than 20,000 heavily armed civilians, then eventually disband them and send them back home in the western state of Michoacan.

In other Latin American countries, similar experiments have created state-backed militias that carried out widespread human rights abuses as armed civilians turned to vengeance, or assisted in mass killings. The Mexican army itself has been accused of rights abuses during the more than seven-year war against organized crime that has seen it deployed as a police force in much of the country.

Vigilante leaders met Tuesday with government officials to hash out details of the agreement that would put avocado and lime pickers with AR-15 semi-automatic rifles under army command. The Mexican military has a century-old tradition of mobilizing “rural defense corps” manned by peasants to fight bandits and uprisings in the countryside.

Brahimi: Syria peace talks slow but ‘still at it’ as negotiators await government proposal

GENEVA — Syrian government anger over a U.S. decision to resume aid to the opposition prompted the U.N. mediator to cut short Tuesday’s peace talks, but he said no one was to blame for the impasse and that the negotiations would continue.

A deal to allow humanitarian aid into Homs remained stalled, with the Syrian delegation demanding assurances the U.S. aid will not go to “armed and terrorist groups” in the besieged city.

U.N.-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said he was relieved that the government and opposition said they will remain in the daily talks through Friday, as planned.

“Nobody’s walking out. Nobody’s running away,” he told reporters. “We have not actually made a breakthrough, but we are still at it, and this is enough as far as I’m concerned.”

Tuesday’s talks were the fifth day of negotiations regarding the civil war, focusing on opposition calls for the formation of a transition government in Syria and help for Homs.

Ukraine PM resigns, parliament overturns anti-protest laws in effort to defuse crisis

KIEV, Ukraine — In back-to-back moves aimed at defusing Ukraine’s political crisis, the prime minister resigned Tuesday and parliament repealed anti-protest laws that had set off violent clashes between protesters and police.

The two developments were significant concessions to the anti-government protesters who have fought sporadically with police for the last 10 days after two months of peaceful around-the-clock demonstrations.

The protests erupted after President Viktor Yanukovych turned toward Russia for a bailout loan instead of signing a deal with the European Union and have since morphed into a general plea for more human rights, less corruption and more democracy in this nation of 45 million.

The departure of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov removes one of the officials most disliked by the opposition forces whose protests have turned parts of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, into a barricaded maze.

However, Azarov’s spokesman told the Interfax news agency that another staunch Yanukovych ally, deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov, will assume temporary leadership of the Cabinet, a move that is unlikely to please the opposition.

By wire sources